Brandy Jensen, The Outline’s associate editor, has made a lot of mistakes in her life. Has she learned from them and become a wiser person as a result? Hahaha oh gosh no. But it does leave her uniquely qualified to tell you what not to do — because she’s probably done it.
This Thanksgiving, my girlfriend and I are hosting both her parents and my parents. Last year we hosted only her parents, and her mom insisted that we buy a pre-made Thanksgiving dinner from Whole Foods. It was pretty good, but goes against everything I love about the holidays (cooking!). I had volunteered to cook everything, but she wouldn’t hear it because she didn’t want to risk it turning out poorly and “didn’t want me to have to worry about it.”
Now that my parents will be in town, I’m even more inclined to cook, as that’s how my mom and I have always enjoyed the holidays together, but my girlfriend’s mom is offering to buy the entire pre-made Thanksgiving dinner to prevent this. She says she wants us to enjoy the holidays, but can’t grasp that this is how I enjoy them. Am I crazy for wanting to cook this badly? And if not, how do I convince her to just let us cook the dang food?
In short: How do I not fuck up Thanksgiving?
Steamed in Studio City
First of all, thank you for the opportunity to feel like a real, grown-up advice columnist who can help you navigate Thanksgiving with the not-quite-in-laws. Sometimes it’s good and important to remember that amidst the existential dread of electoral politics and a looming climate apocalypse, we are still beset by more low-stakes worries. The world spins on, and there remains the question of turkey.
Luckily, this one is very straightforward! You don’t need to convince your girlfriend’s mother of anything — your girlfriend simply needs to inform her mother of your decision. Being an adult mainly sucks but it does offer one unalloyed joy: my house, my rules. This needn’t be a long conversation or debate! Your girlfriend just calls her up and says “we appreciate your generous offer but we have decided we will be cooking this year. Can’t wait to see you.” That’s really it. If she wants to make fuss she can bring a store-bought pie. Look at this as an opportunity to set a healthy precedent about your relationship moving forward. You decide together what your dinner, and home, and future should look like.
That’s all a relationship is, really: a process of becoming. It’s the accretion of decisions, large and small, that bind you to each other, saying “we do things this way and not that,” for no other reason than you have chosen. It is one of those rare things to which your input is absolutely essential. And what a gift it is to be essential to another; to love the world a little more for loving someone in it. Be grateful, and don’t overcook the turkey.
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